Category Archives: Conditioning

5 Tips for Leaning Out

If you’re the type of person who can formulate a plan and stick with it to a T for months on end no problemmo, then you won’t find this article as useful as others who struggle with adherence. Furthermore, if you’re the type that just needs to recomp (add muscle while decreasing fat and staying relatively at the same weight), then this article won’t be as much help to you. The vast majority of individuals will indeed benefit from this article since most people are markedly overweight. However, I wrote this article for the folks like me who have been training for many years and have put on a significant amount of muscle mass but never reached the level of leanness they desire. This applies to the majority of advanced lifters as well, since most never truly get into competition shape (I never have, for the record).

For me, adherence is the most difficult thing in the world. Every few hours, it takes everything in me to not enter the kitchen and devour everything in site. Since I was 16 years old, I’ve always been a terrible sleeper, and if I’m hungry, I can’t sleep. In fact, most nights I wake up in the middle of the night starving and the hunger pangs are hard to bear. I have to drink a protein drink or eat a Greek yogurt then go back to sleep. For these reasons, although I’m highly skilled at creating macro plans, I’m not the best at sticking to them.

Me

Me

I’ll elaborate to make a point. Last year, my intern Andrew Vigotsky would come over and we’d work on various research projects from around 8:00 pm to 2:00 am in the morning. During these 6 hours, he wouldn’t eat anything, he wouldn’t drink anything, and he wouldn’t go to the bathroom once to take a leak. In this same amount of time, I’d predictably eat 3 different times, drink 1.5 Liters of fluids, and take a leak at least 3 times. He doesn’t get hungry often and has to force himself to eat enough, whereas I’m hungry around the clock and have to try my hardest every day to not go berserk and consume 10,000 calories/day. I’m certain that if we took blood samples throughout the day and analyzed our physiology, we’d see  completely different hunger hormone profiles. It’s like my bodyweight set point is for some reason at 300 lbs and I’m trying to be 215 lbs. At any rate, I finally buckled down and made some progress, and I’m excited to share with you the tips that worked for me. 

As I mentioned in a blogpost HERE a couple of weeks ago, I recently lost 22 lbs (from 246 lbs to 224 lbs) and leaned out considerably. Many of my readers were curious as to how I went about it. As a matter of fact, I posted a picture of my current physique on Facebook and it received 4,690 likes – by far the most I’ve ever received!

This was pleasantly surprising to me because I don’t feel like my physique is very impressive. The dude in the picture below – now that’s an impressive physique! Nevertheless, having leaned out myself and having helped numerous clients lean out over the years, I believe that I have some good insight to share.

This guy is shredded!

This guy is lean! Not me.

I Figured Out What Worked for Me, You Have to Figure Out What Works for You!

Throughout this article, please realize that these are the approaches that worked well for me; they won’t necessarily work for you. However, you can learn from my strategization and experimentation in order to help you figure out the methods and systems that best suit your individuality.

After much deliberation, I decided to narrow things down to five main tips that should help you on your way to leanness, should that be your goal.

1. Do what you need to do to continue achieving excellent workouts

It’s much easier to train hard when you’re eating like a horse. When you’re dieting down, your workouts will eventually suffer, and this effect gets more pronounced the longer you’ve been dieting.

rock2

It is mandatory that you have plenty of energy to train hard to maintain strength (or even better – to build strength) over time. If you feel weak and shaky when you lift, your performance is obviously going to suffer massively, therefore you won’t be sending the same growth signals to the muscles, and your muscles will atrophy. The goal is to keep as much muscle as possible while you lose weight so that the weight you do lose is mostly fat. Most people mistakenly focus on losing weight instead of losing fat. Muscle gives you shape and keeps your metabolism more revved (*side note: many fitness experts overestimate this though; a pound of muscle burns approximately 5.9 calories/day whereas a pound of fat burns approximately 2.0 calories/day, at least according to literature referenced HERE), so it’s imperative that you prioritize strength training. You don’t want to just be a smaller version of your current self; you want to keep your muscle and lose mostly fat so you will appear more ripped and possess lower bodyfat levels.

So how do you ensure that you have sufficient energy to train hard when dieting down? Everyone is unique in this regard – I cannot give you a precise formula. You’re going to have to experiment and be scientific in order to figure out what works best for you. In particular, you need to figure out:

  1. The ideal time of day you should train in order to put forth your best effort
  2. The ideal number of meals you should consume prior to your training session
  3. The ideal combination of foods you should consume prior to your training session
  4. The types of supplements, if any, that help you train harder
  5. The amount, type, and timing of cardio, if any, that helps you lose fat without interfering with strength
  6. The optimal amount of calorie reduction and macro proportions that allows you to steadily drop weight (fat) while keeping your strength (muscle)

I know of some lifters who like to train first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This strategy alone would cause me to lose significant strength and most likely muscle as well as I don’t perform optimally in the mornings – especially with squats, deadlifts, and other “big rock” movements. I do best when I train in the afternoon or evenings.

I know of some lifters who don’t feel right if they don’t have a couple of moderate carb meals prior to their workouts or at least a high carb meal 1-2 hours before their workout. I know of some lifters who consume all of their daily carbs during the 3 hours surrounding a workout (before, during, and after). I don’t require moderate or high carb meals before I train; this doesn’t seem to affect my performance. However, I like to have several meals in me by the time I train, especially a protein shake around 40 minutes prior to my workout.

I know of some lifters who love their HIIT and can’t stand steady state cardio. I don’t like doing HIIT or running as I feel that it interferes with my strength since I train with high frequency (*side note: THIS review shows that concurrent training does interfere with strength, power, and hypertrophy, and THIS review discusses some of the factors involved in the interference effect). I walk for 40 minutes 4-5 days per week – always after my strength workouts.

I know of some lifters who thrive off of coffee and/or caffeine pills prior to training. I rarely drink coffee, and I don’t take pre-workout supplements, but I always drink a diet energy drink on my way to the gym.

Initially, I was able to reduce my calories substantially while still maintaining my strength. This could be explained by a drop in carbohydrates (I was consuming tons of carbs every day) leading to improved insulin sensitivity/enhanced physiology, along with a significant portion of the first 10 lbs of weight loss coming from water losses. I lost 16 lbs during the first 3 weeks of dieting, and the remaining 8 lbs took 9 weeks, but my physique looked better every week. I know I was a little overaggressive out of the gates, but it all worked out in the end.

rock

I had to be more meticulous as time went on in terms of calorie reductions in order to prevent strength and muscle losses. As I lost weight, I fought vigorously to maintain my strength. I’m going to reiterate that to make a point: I CARED ABOUT MY STRENGTH AND MADE IT A PRIORITY. You need to do this too if you want to hold onto your muscle while you lose weight.

Throughout the 24 lb weight loss, my high rep deadlift strength, weighted chin up strength, max rep chin ups, and lat pulldown strength soared, my max rep deadlift strength, hip thrust strength, reverse lunge strength, rowing strength, and incline press strength remained fairly steady, and my squat strength, front squat strength, bench press strength, and military press strength diminished by around 10% – similar to my bodyweight reduction. So I gained in some lifts, maintained in some lifts, and lost in other lifts. However, I set weekly goals, I planned, tracked, and analyzed my workouts, and I tried my absolute best to still set PRs when possible. I believe that this caused me to retain more muscle and lose more fat throughout the dieting process. This are the strategies that worked best for me; you’ll need to figure out what works best for you. 

2. Eat less and prepare to suffer more

When I was at The Fitness Summit a couple of months ago, some of my colleagues noticed that I looked leaner and asked me what I was doing in order to lean out. I thought about it for a few seconds and replied with this:

“Um, I’m eating less overall calories and staying hungry more often.”

We all laughed because they expected some fancy formula, but all I gave them was something any moron could tell them. However, this advice is very important. I suppose I could have been more technical and informed them that I created a caloric deficit by progressively cutting my carbs and fat down while keeping my protein the same (around 1 gram/lb of bodyweight per day). However, one of the main things I had to do was get used to being more comfortable with being hungry.

I realize now that I was a spoiled little b#$%* when I weighed 250 lbs. Whenever I experienced the slightest bit of hunger, off to the kitchen I went. In fact, sometimes I’d even hit up Valeros at 2 a.m. before I went to sleep. Valeros is a local Mexican food take out restaurant near my house – I’d order a chorizo and egg burrito with beans and rice. Who in the f*#$ did I think I was LOL? This was just one of the 8 meals I ‘d consume per day. Back then I was eating around 6K calories per day at 250 lbs, but in order to get down to 224 lbs I had to eventually get to around 3,000 calories per day. This was fine when I was in my early 20’s, but I’m 38 yrs old now and can’t handle all those calories while staying lean.

chorizo

When I was at 250 lbs, I would guess that I experienced general hunger for around 20 minutes per day. But at 224 lbs, I would guess that I was experiencing general hunger for around 3 hours per day. I had to accept this and learn to deal with the suffering. Getting lean isn’t all fun and games for most people.

3. Prioritize diet, but every little bit can help

It’s important to be mathematical with regards to the fat loss puzzle. How many calories does exercise in general burn? Of course, it depends on various factors such as the nature and intensity of the exercise and the person’s bodyweight, but let’s just go with 5-10 calories per minute for sustained exercise.

Common sense tells us that extreme methods don’t pan out in the long run. So let’s assume that you’re going to be realistic and lift weights 4 times per week for an hour. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you train very hard – full body – and that each training session has you burning 300 more calories more than you would at rest. This equates to 1,200 extra calories per week. Say you add in four 30 minute steady state cardio sessions which burn an additional 200 calories per session above what you’d normally burn. This equates to 800 extra calories per week. Now you’re burning an additional 2,000 calories per week through exercise, or 286 calories/day.

Not very impressive, right? Let’s say you currently eat a bagel with cream cheese each day as a snack, or say you have a few alcoholic drinks after work each night. Simply cutting these out of your diet will create the same caloric deficit as all of that exercising above (6-8 hours of total activity). Obviously strength training with the extra calories would be the best choice for your physique over the long haul since it causes the body to transform by building more muscle and shedding fat (assuming weight stays fairly constant), but the take home point is that the primary focus with fat loss should be on diet, not exercise, since it’s easier for most people to eat less as opposed to exercising more.

That said, every little bit can help. For example, when you’re dieting down and you crave a sugary snack, you might very well be willing to add in 40 minutes of brisk walking as a trade for allowing yourself to gobble down some tasty treat (for example, a snickers bar, not a giant bowl of icecream or half a dozen donuts). It just depends on your cravings and mindset. Some people aren’t tempted and can stick to their macros like a boss. Others struggle more in this regard.

Inclined treadmill walking is one of my favorite forms of cardio - doesn't interfere with strength and hits the glutes pretty well.

Inclined treadmill walking is one of my favorite forms of cardio – doesn’t interfere with strength and hits the glutes pretty well.

On days when I train clients for 4 hours or so, I find that I’m able to consume around an extra 600 calories compared to days when I don’t train any clients, and I won’t lie, the extra calories are very nice. But truth be told, if I wasn’t making money from the personal training, I’d prefer to just omit the extra hours of work/activity and just consume less calories. For those who don’t have tremendous cravings, you can just lift weights and adjust your diet appropriately; you don’t have to employ additional cardio to get lean. I realize that this is contrary to popular opinion, but many of my clients have pulled it off just fine – they stepped on stage looking incredibly lean having never done on ounce of cardio. Some cardio is indeed important for health purposes, but many people greatly overestimate how much cardio is ideal for health related goals (*side note: specifically with running and vigorous exercise, there’s a sweet spot, or a u-shaped curve, that maximizes health benefits, according to THIS paper, and it’s capped at 30-40 minutes per day).

4. Figure out clever ways to stave off hunger

Calculating macros is easy, but sticking to them is not always very easy, especially as you get leaner. Now, if you’re the type that isn’t prone to experiencing hunger pangs, then you’re a lucky individual and you can ignore this tip. However, if you’re like most people, you’re going to reach a point when dieting down where you find yourself getting extremely hungry. The body has inherent set points for bodyweight and bodyfat, so when you drop down, your body responds by sending out hunger signals. You will need to find a way to stave off hunger.

This is another thing that is highly individual. Some people consume a lot of fibrous veggies. My body doesn’t seem to be fooled by this – 30 minutes later my stomach is growling like crazy. Others chew gum, drink tea, drink a bunch of water, or even brush their teeth. What works best for me is exercise, caffeine, and carbonation. Each of these stave off my hunger temporarily. Sometimes I’ll be starving and I drink a diet energy drink and then go for a walk, and my hunger will have vanished. Three hours later I’m finally hungry again, and I successfully “stalled” my hunger for a few hours which helps enable me to stick to my macros. You will need to figure out similar strategies that work for you.

5. The 1-2X/week whey protein macro-fitting strategy for long-term adherence

Adherence is the name of the game over the long run. If you can set up, stick to, and intelligently adjust your macros for months on end and consistently set PRs in the gym, you’re going to look incredible. Many people don’t understand what “macros” means. Macros are protein, carbs, and fat, and the amount you consume of each determines your caloric intake. If this is new to you and you desire a basic guide to teach you about flexible dieting and calculating macros, click HERE to check out Sohee Lee’s “The Beginner’s Guide to Macros.” It’s an affordable guide and it’s very well written – I vouch for it. I also included a bonus guide in my 2 x 4: Maximum Strength product.

Before I divulge my “whey protein macro-fitting strategy,” I’m going to first rant about anti-flexible dieting comments I’ve seen over the past year.

Rant start

I’ve been seeing some people dissing “flexible dieting” lately as if it doesn’t have merit. This would then mean that they’re all for “inflexible dieting” or “rigid dieting.” Having trained numerous competitors who ate the same meals everyday for a couple of months during their preps (egg white omelets, broccoli, chicken, tilapia, sweet potato, oats), I can tell you with much confidence that this doesn’t pan out in the long run. As soon as the competition is over, most of these ladies put on 15 lbs the following week, then they’re miserable. This is why I’m a strong believer in moderation and why I don’t like excessive cardio or dieting. Variety is ideal for adherence.

On a continuum of “dieting flexibility,” on one end you’d have the most rigid dieters who would just eat a few different things each day, whereas on the other end you’d have the most flexible dieters who would switch things up and eat new things daily. I’m pretty sure nobody would recommend just eating one food, such as milk. Or beef. Or eggs. Or whatever. You’d be very unhealthy and would develop serious health complications pretty quickly. So rigid, inflexible dieting is out, and at the very least, it would be prudent to regularly consume at least 10 different foods. Most people are flexible dieters whether they realize it or not.

The difference between the flexible dieters and “anti flexible dieters” is that flexible dieters often purposefully work in some junk food such as pop tarts, or ice cream, or whatever, but it’s in small amounts. The rigid dieters think this is unhealthy, but something that they’re missing is that you can still adhere to flexible dieting and abstain from junk food. You can “eat clean” (misleading term but we all kind of know what it means) while still being flexible and incorporating a lot of variety. For the record, adding in some junk is not unhealthy in the grand scheme of things as long as around 80% of your foods come from whole, minimally processed foods, and I’m unaware of a single marker of overall health that would be negatively impacted such as insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. Many “clean eaters” have a cheat day where they go crazy for an entire day and end up eating just as much junk throughout the week as the flexible dieters anyway.

Nevertheless, variety is better for overall health since you get more of a variety of micronutrients, phytochemicals, etc. But being lean is very healthy in and of itself. Many of you will recall “The Twinkie Diet” rage years ago where professor Mark Haub lost 27 lbs in 10 weeks by eating 800 less calories/day. He consumed a protein shake and a can of veggies each day, but everything else was junk – twinkies, oreos, little debbie snacks, hostess products, doritos, and sugary cereals. Even though he ate a bunch of crap, since he leaned out, his overall health improved – his LDL levels dropped by 20%, his HDL levels increased by 20%, and his triglycerides improved by 39%. Overweight people who add fruits/veggies to their diets without losing weight don’t tend to improve their cardiovascular health (see HERE).

This is why adherence is the name of the game! So we all need to figure out strategies that allow us to “adhere” for the long-term. This allows us to be at the right weight and bodyfat that we want to be at and stay there for the long-term. This leads right into my next point.

Rant over

When you’re dieting down, you tend to crave predictable foods. Sugary foods, fried foods, foods that have lots of carbs and fats, etc. For example, pizza, burgers, fries, ice cream, peanut butter, bacon, cereal, pancakes, macaroni and cheese, cookies, brownies, pie, candy, and chocolate. I started utilizing an interesting flexible approach that 1) allowed me to get in the foods I craved, and 2) was quick and didn’t require a lot of prep time. Win win!

My Whey Protein-Fitting Macro Plan

Now, you don’t have to follow this same approach, but you could easily tweak it to suit your individuality. What I did was simply jot down foods I really wished I could eat. For example, I love my giant bowls of cereal, I love my cheeseburgers, and I love my pancakes with tons of butter and syrup. Guess what? I realized that I could have cereal in the morning along with a whey protein shake, a double cheeseburger for lunch, pancakes for dinner along with a whey protein shake, and a whey protein and peanut butter shake (actually more like pudding) before I went to sleep. How’s that for a day’s meals? The things I craved were loaded with fat and carbs, but I “filled in the gaps” with whey protein in order to ensure that I hit my macros and didn’t go overboard on calories. Think of the foods you crave (when you’re dieting down, sometimes the things you crave are different than when you’re not dieting down), work them into your diet in reasonable amounts, then balance everything out with protein. Here’s what one of the days looked like for me:

Breakfast: 

Giant bowl of Grape Nuts: 500 calories, 12 grams protein, 94 grams carbs, 2 grams fat
Skim milk: 135 calories, 12 grams protein, 18 grams carbs, 0 grams fat
2 scoops in whey protein in water: 220 calories, 42 grams protein, 8 grams carbs, 2 grams fat
Total: 855 calories, 66 grams protein, 120 grams carbs, 4 grams fat

grape nuts

Lunch:

Double cheeseburger (Wendy’s): 700 calories, 48 grams protein, 38 grams carbs, 39 grams fat
Total: 700 calories, 48 grams protein, 38 grams carbs, 39 grams fat

double cheeseburger

Dinner:

3 pancakes: 471 calories, 12 grams protein, 69 grams carbs, 15 grams fat
2 tablespoons butter: 204 calories, 0 grams protein, 0 grams carbs, 24 grams fat
6 tablespoons syrup: 312 calories, 0 grams protein, 78 grams carbs, 0 grams fat
2 scoops in whey protein in water: 220 calories, 42 grams protein, 8 grams carbs, 2 grams fat
Total: 1208 calories, 54 grams protein, 155 grams carbs, 41 grams fat

pancakes

Snack:

2 scoops in whey protein: 220 calories, 42 grams protein, 8 grams carbs, 2 grams fat
Skim milk: 90 calories, 9 grams protein, 12 grams carbs, 0 grams fat
3 tablespoons peanut butter: 300 calories, 10 grams protein, 9 grams carbs, 24 grams fat
Total: 610 calories, 64 grams protein, 29 grams carbs, 26 grams fat

chocolate-pudding

* I’d make the protein shake so that it was really thick and then I’d refrigerate it so it came out like pudding

Grand Total:

3373 calories, 232 grams protein, 326 grams carbs, 110 grams fat

You’ll note that this day of food intake totaled 3373 calories. Toward the end of the 10 weeks of dieting, I was down to around 3000 calories/day, so if I went over on calories like this, I’d walk for 30-60 min (depending on the overage on calories) at night at a brisk pace in order to make up the difference.

I would do this once per week at first and then twice per week after I’d been dieting for six weeks. These days would feel like cheat days, but they’re not cheat days – you don’t gain any weight and you don’t feel like complete crap the next day because you keep your calories in check. You’ll find that the rest of the week, you feel extra motivated to eat “cleaner” and get more fiber in, etc. I don’t experience digestive issues with these days but I would expect some people to, so those folks could take a fiber supplement on those days I suppose.

The other 5-6 days per week, I’d stick mostly to whey protein shakes, skim milk, eggs, tuna, chicken, lean beef, Greek yogurt, orange juice, fruit, dried fruit, mixed veggies, cheese, mixed nuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, pickles, and fish oil caps. So this way, the vast majority (over 80%) of my food throughout the week is still considered whole and minimally processed, with plenty of fiber and diversity. Of utmost importance, the flexibility allows me to stay lean, stay healthy, and stay aboard the plan.

Again, you don’t have to use this same approach. Many people don’t like protein shakes (I love them), but the whey is almost pure protein so it works very well for this purpose. You will obviously crave unique foods that are different from mine. But make no mistake about it – adherence is the name of the game in the long run, so you have to figure out ways to help you stick to the formula.

Conclusion

I hope that these 5 tips are helpful in your endeavors to get leaner. I’d like to state that many of my clients lean out considerably without ever dieting down. They simply keep their calories consistent, improve their macro proportions to contain more protein, and get way stronger. Over the course of several months, their physiques transform markedly despite the scale not changing. So the advice provided in this article is more so for the person who is too heavy and needs to lose weight to achieve their preferred level of body composition.

As I’ve repeated consistently throughout this article, these are the strategies that worked well for me, but you’ll need to get crafty and figure out ways to help you adhere to your diet so that you keep your calories in check, stick to your macros, and maintain or gain strength in the gym. You want fat loss and muscle maintenance, not weight loss, so strategize accordingly and defend your strength levels like a boss as you diet down.

2015-06-12 00.00.00

Me at 224 lbs after losing 22 lbs over 10 weeks

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle
By Marc Lewis and Travis Pollen

With summer just around the corner, fat loss and concurrent muscle preservation is on just about everyone’s mind. The trouble is, there’s a whole lot of gimmicky — not to mention conflicting — information out there, especially when it comes to extreme diet and workout methods that supposedly yield lightning fast results.

The truth is that you don’t need to employ a bunch of hocus-pocus or fancy tricks to improve body composition (i.e. lose fat). In fact, just sticking to the tried-and-true basics the majority of the time will absolutely enable you to meet your beach body goals — no crazy diets or trickery needed.

Here are 10 nutrition and training tips to guide your beach body journey.

1

Nutrition

1. Increase energy expenditure through exercise BEFORE reducing calories.

Why: Energy balance is the main determinant of weight management. An energy surplus equates to an increase in body mass, and an energy deficit equates to a decrease in body mass. The most common mistake people make when attempting to shed fat is simultaneously reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise energy expenditure.

The problem with this strategy is twofold: (1) it creates a magnified energy deficit (i.e. caloric reduction plus increased energy expenditure) and (2) it reduces your “caloric bank.” If you’re in a magnified caloric deficit, you will lose body mass too fast to maintain your hard-earned lean body mass, which in turn will negatively affect your basal metabolic rate (i.e. the amount of energy your body uses for basic life function) (1).

In order to improve body composition, the main goal must be to decrease body fat while keeping caloric intake as high as possible. This will provide you with enough calories to minimize any loss of lean body mass and create a greater caloric bank to draw from to combat plateaus (1).

How: Using an app like MyFitnessPal, identify the number of calories you’re currently taking in. Obtain your body composition by whatever means is available to you (i.e. bioelectrical impedance, skinfold calipers, etc.). Using your body mass along with your body fat percentage, calculate your fat mass vs. fat-free mass. Additionally, identify the number of calories you are taking in to maintain your current body mass. Once you start implementing the training methods presented below, monitor your body composition while maintaining your current caloric intake and using your body mass and body fat as control variables.

2

2. Implement a small to moderate caloric deficit.

Why: Crash dieting or greatly reducing your daily caloric intake (i.e. >500 kcals per day) negatively impacts your metabolic rate, which ultimately makes it more difficult to reduce body fat and train effectively (2, 3). The magnitude of these negative adaptations are likely proportional to the size of the caloric deficit. Therefore, small to moderate caloric deficits are the way to go for short-term body composition change, as well as for long-term metabolic health (1).

How: When seeking to reduce caloric intake in order to improve body composition, focus on small-to-moderate caloric reductions of 300-500 kcals per day, which equates to a weekly caloric deficit of 2100-3500 kcals, and ultimately, a reduction in body mass by 0.6-1 pounds per week. This pattern of weight loss will assist you in reducing your body fat, while minimizing the loss of lean body mass. As suggested by Trexler et al. (2014), although this may decrease the rate of weight loss, it will attenuate negative adaptations that can challenge body fat reduction.

3

3. Get your protein.

Why: When attempting to reduce body fat through an energy deficit, increasing your protein intake has been suggested to attenuate losses in lean body mass (4, 5, 6). Additionally, high protein diets (i.e. >25% of your total macronutrients) have been shown to increase satiety and thermogenesis (heat production) (7). In addition, the pattern of protein intake outside of the immediate post-exercise recovery period appears to be important for maximizing myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS), while inducing a more positive whole body protein balance (5).

How: Protein consumption of approximately 1.8-2.7 g/kg/day have been shown to preserve lean body mass when training in an energy deficit (4, 6). The consumption of approximately 20-25 grams of leucine-rich protein (i.e. chicken, beef, whey protein, eggs, etc) every 3 hours post-exercise has been suggested, along with consuming at least 20 grams prior to sleep (5). This practice will assist in maximizing MPS, which will promote recovery between training sessions by enhancing skeletal muscle remodelling and allowing you to maintain lean body mass.

4. Fuel to train.

Why: The ability to train effectively during each training session is really what builds lean muscle mass, cranks up your metabolic rate, and allows you to burn more calories during the other 23 hours of the day that you’re not training. To train effectively and truly maximize every session, you must be properly fueled. When attempting to reduce body fat, many people utilize calorically restrictive diets that interfere with their ability to maintain adequate training frequency, volume, and intensity. Strength training without the proper fuel blunts leucine uptake by the muscle, mTOR signaling, and ultimately, muscle protein synthesis (8).

How: It is suggested to consume at least 20 grams of leucine-rich protein (i.e. chicken, beef, cottage cheese, whey protein, etc.) at least 60 minutes prior to training, while consuming a mixed meal (i.e. fat, carbohydrate, protein) within 3-4 hours prior to strength training (8). A good rule of thumb is to consume approximately 20-30% of your daily carbohydrate intake (depending on gastrointestinal tolerance) within 3 hours prior to training, which provides adequate energy to train and recover. When performing conditioning early in the day and resistance training in the afternoon, it is vital to refuel fully in order to maximize the cellular signaling that facilitates muscle hypertrophy (8).

4

5. Condition fueled, not fasted.

Why: The concept of “fasted cardio” is based on the theory that low glycogen levels cause the body to shift energy utilization away from carbohydrates and increase lipolysis in order to mobilize stored fat for energy. Schoenfeld (2011) suggested that even the premise of this concept is flawed, since it considers only the energy utilized during the training session when determining the optimal method for fat loss. As Schoenfeld points out, energy utilization associated with fat burning must be considered over the course of several days, since substrate utilization is determined by multiple factors (9).

Additionally, when attempting to reduce body fat while preserving muscle mass, every bit of muscle tissue matters. It’s been shown that proteolysis (i.e. the breakdown of protein) is increased when performing aerobic exercise in a fasted state (9). Finally, performing any type of high-intensity training, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), in a fasted state will most likely impair performance, thereby blunting the positive effects of the training.

How: Eat before you condition! This doesn’t mean you have to eat for conditioning the same way you would for strength training; it just means that you need to consume at least some protein (i.e. 20-25 grams) and some carbohydrates prior to training. To lose body fat while preserving your hard-earned muscle, consume a mixture of BCAAs and dextrose prior to training.

5

Training

1. Focus on big-bang-for-the-buck, full-body lifts with sufficient training volume.

Why: For the umpteenth time, spot reduction is a myth! All the sit-ups and curls in the world won’t shed that stubborn belly and arm fat. Sure, isolation exercises can help shape and define a particular muscle. However, they won’t burn calories and melt away the fat that’s hiding those muscles in the same way that full-body, compound movements will. Compound movements provide the hormonal, neural, and cellular adaptations needed to maintain lean body mass, while simultaneously ramping up caloric expenditure. Additionally, compound movements allow you to go heavy (in order to recruit the high threshold motor units that have the highest capacity for growth) and work multiple large muscle groups at once, which in-turn makes for more efficient training.

How: Make multi-joint lifts like the squat, deadlift, hip thrust, lunges, bench press, overhead press, dips, pull-up, and the row the foundation of your program. Perform two or three of these exercises for adequate volume at the beginning of every training session. When training with higher loads, about 25 total reps are optimal (i.e. 5 sets of 5, 4 sets of 6, 8 sets of 3). At lower loads, a total of about 50 reps is the magic number (i.e. 5 sets of 10, 4 sets of 12, 3 sets of 15).

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2. Hit a variety of repetition ranges.

Why: One of the most common misconceptions, even among seasoned lifters, is that muscle is built only in the 6-12 repetition range. It is certainly true that a significant portion of hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth) will occur within this window. However, in order to maximize muscle gains — and trigger each of the various mechanisms of hypertrophy (10) — both lower and higher repetition ranges should also be covered (11).

Moderate- and high-repetition sets will induce muscle damage and metabolic stress (also known as “the pump”), while maintaining the use of high-load, low repetition sets will facilitate the use of greater absolute loads at submaximal intensities. Only when all three strategies are employed in synchrony can we reach our full muscular potential.

How: Not surprisingly, the compound lifts discussed above are ideally suited for all three mechanisms of hypertrophy and repetition ranges. For an in-depth analysis of how to manipulate training variables (sets, reps, tempo, and rest) to invoke the various mechanisms, see Bret and Travis’s recent T-Nation article, “The 3 Essential Workout Methods for Muscle.”

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3. Utilize undulating periodization.

Why: Undulating periodization is suggested to be superior to other forms of periodization when peaking for a specific event isn’t a concern (12, 13). To reduce body fat while minimizing losses in muscle, the training program must allow for somewhat frequent variations in training parameters like volume, intensity, rest period, and tempo. These fluctuations will allow for the maximizing all of the factors associated with muscle hypertrophy, while simultaneously giving you the freedom to “auto-regulate” your workout based on other stressors in your life. Undulating periodization also reduces the risk of progress stagnation, which tends to be associated with an overemphasis, or specialization in a certain volume and/or intensity.

How: There are a multitude of undulating periodization schemes. One simple and easy to implement example is daily undulating periodization, which elicits the desired response by cycling through training sessions emphasizing multiple loading schemes over the course of the week. It’s important to note that although the bulk of each session’s sets and reps should be consistent with that particular day’s emphasis, work can also be done in other ranges (i.e. one or two “back-off sets” following heavy strength work).

A sample week of daily undulating periodization might look like this:

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4. Incorporate metabolic resistance training for its dual muscle-building and conditioning benefits.

Why: If anything over 5 reps is cardio, as some hardcore powerlifters will assure you, then why not take advantage? By metabolic resistance training (MRT), we’re referring to circuit-style workouts utilizing low-load, low-skill, high-rep compound movements and standard resistance training implements. Traditionalists might eschew this method of conditioning, preferring time-honored machines like fan bikes or even good old-fashioned hill sprints, but in truth — when programmed intelligently — metabolic resistance training has a slew of benefits.

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MRT provides an adequate stimulus for maintaining muscle, while simultaneously ramping up the fat-burning furnace. It increases the metabolic cost of exercise (600-700 kcal/hour) by increasing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) (14, 15, 16), or that feeling that you’re still burning fat well after the last rep, which you actually are! Due to the glycogen-depleting nature of high-intensity exercise, our body shifts its focus to replenishing those glycogen stores post-exercise, which in turn increases lipolysis and the utilization of free fatty acids as fuel (16). In fact, EPOC increases exponentially with high-intensity exercise (high intensity of load or effort), as opposed to the linear increase associated with submaximal intensities (16).

Moreover, MRT allows you to increase your work capacity through improving lactate clearance, thus enabling you to perform a greater volume of work at higher relative intensities (16). In sum, MRT is an ideal method for improving aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, while efficiently and effectively torching unwanted body fat.

How: MRT should involve compound exercises for the full body. It’s most easily carried out in supersets (two exercises performed back-to-back in alternating fashion) or circuit form. Some exercises to consider include squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, bench press, push press, rows, and dips.

The work load should be approximately 60-65% of your 1-RM for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. The intensity of effort should be very high (i.e. RPE 8-10 on the 10-point scale). Rest should be no longer than 30 seconds between rounds of supersets and no longer than 2 minutes between rounds of a larger circuit (17). An example of an MRT circuit might be 3 rounds of 15 goblet squats, 15 repetitions on bench press, 15 ring rows, and 15 deadlifts. Push the pace, but rest as needed in order to maintain form.

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5. Condition strategically with a mix of intensities (of both resistance and effort) and durations.

Why: Every minute of conditioning must serve a purpose. That is, spending mindless hours on the elliptical or stationary bike will not help you reach your body composition goals. Nor will having an “every-day-is-game-day” mentality and going balls to the wall session after session. In order to lose fat and preserve muscle when conditioning, the key is to strike an optimal balance between shorter, higher intensity efforts and longer, lower intensity bouts.

Cardiac output, or steady state, training at low-to-moderate intensity (i.e. 25-30 minutes cycling at 50-70% HRR) can be an extremely useful tool, as well. Cardiac output training assists in recovery by improving the clearance of metabolic byproducts, improving the quality of sleep, and improving the body’s ability to replenish glycogen stores. In addition, cardiac output training can improve autonomic nervous system control (i.e. sympathetic vs. parasympathetic balance), which directly impacts recovery and improves mood. Finally, as its name implies, cardiac output training is also great for the heart, thereby allowing you to keep a healthier engine.

How: Incorporate at least one day per week each of metabolic resistance training, high- or low-intensity interval/tempo training, and cardiac output training (i.e. 25-30 minutes cycling at 50-70% HRR). When incorporating interval training into your program, select an appropriate work-to-rest ratio based on the primary energy pathway you are utilizing.

If you’re performing high-intensity interval sessions involving a 30-second all-out sprint, then an appropriate rest period would be 3 minutes (1:6 work-rest ratio). This allows for the primary energy system being taxed —  anaerobic glycolysis, in this case —  to recover, which will allow you to perform the sprints as close to full capacity as possible. In contrast, if you’re doing aerobic intervals, such as 3 minutes of work, a rest period of 3 minutes will be adequate to recover in order to perform the interval near full capacity (1:1 work-rest ratio). Perform cardiac output training at least once a week for 25-35 minutes at 50-70% of your HRR.

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Don’t Be a Stiff!

Remember, muscle growth and fat loss are a combination of the stress of training and the ability to recover from that stress. Sometimes life gets in the way — maybe the baby kept you up all night, or you were forced to grab a lower quality pre-workout meal than usual. When this occurs, it’s important to “auto-regulate,” or tweak training parameters to coincide with your current physiological and psychological states. Moreover, don’t feel guilty if you slip up every now and then on nutrition or if you have to skip a workout. It’s okay to live a little! Just be sure to jump right back on the wagon.

References

  1. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, & Norton LE. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 11 (7), 2014.
  1. Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, & Sundgot-Borgen J. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 21, 2011.
  1. Chaston TB, Dixon JB, & O’Brien PE. Changes of fat-free mass during significant weight loss: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity. 31, 2007.
  1. Murphy CH, Hector AJ, & Phillips SM. Considerations for protein intake in managing weight loss in athletes. European Journal of Sport Science. 2014.
  1. Perez-Schindler J, Hamilton DL, Moore DR, Baar K, & Philip A. Nutritional strategies to support concurrent training. European Journal of Sport Science. 2015.
  1. Churchward-Venne TA, Murphy CH, Longland ™, & Phillips SM. Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Springer. 2013.
  1. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 87, 2008.
  1. Baar K. Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training. Sports Medicine. 44(suppl 2), 2014.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ. Does cardio after an overnight fast maximize fat loss? Strength and Conditioning Journal. 33(1), 2011.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(10), 2014.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Willardson JM, Fontana F, & Tiryaki-Sonmez. Muscle Activation during low- versus high-load resistance training in well-trained men. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 114, 2014.
  1. Miranda F, Simao R, Rhea M, Bunker D, Prestes J, Diego Leite R, Miranda H, De Salles F, & Novaes J. Effects of linear versus daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(7), 2011.
  1. Rhea M, Ball S, Phillips W, & Burkett L. A comparison of linear versus daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 16(2), 2002.
  1. Da Silva RL, Brentano MA, & Martins Kruel LF. Effects of different strength training methods on post-exercise energetic expenditure. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(8), 2010.
  1. Elliot DL, Goldberg L, & Kuehl KS. Effect of resistance training on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research. 6(2), 1992.
  1. Paoli A, Moro T, Marcolin G, Neri M, Bianco A, Palma A, & Grimaldi K. High-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT) influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratio in non-dieting individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine. 10, 2012.
  1. Haltom RW, Kraemer RR, Sloan RA, Hebert EP, Frank K, & Tryniecki JL. Circuit weight training and its effects on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 31(11), 1999.

About the Authors

Marc Lewis, M.S.(c), CSCS, TSAC-F, ACSM-EP-C, ACSM-CPT is the owner of Winston Salem Personal Training in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, while also serving as a graduate teaching/research assistant in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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Twitter: @mtlewis14

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/marc.lewis.CSCS

Personal Training: www.winstonsalempersonaltraining.com

Travis Pollen is an NPTI certified personal trainer and American record-holding Paralympic swimmer. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Movement Science at the University of Delaware.

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Facebook: www.facebook.com/fitnesspollenator

Blog: www.FitnessPollenator.com

 

How to Maximize Concurrent Training

How to Maximize Concurrent Training
By Marc Lewis

Simultaneously training for adaptations associated with resistance and endurance training (RT & ET), otherwise known as concurrent training (CT), is widely debated by fitness professionals and strength coaches alike. CT has been criticized due to the potential for chronic overreaching, as well as the competing adaptations associated when performing RT and ET, concurrently. However if programmed carefully, CT can produce a lean and sculpted physique, while obtaining a high level of fitness as measured by health aspects as well as athletic parameters. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to elucidate the ways in which the adaptations associated with both RT and ET can be maximized when training concurrently.

In 1980, Dr. Robert Hickson introduced the concept of “interference” when training for adaptations associated with both RT and ET simultaneously (1). Currently, it is generally accepted that you cannot fully maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy, strength, and power, while engaging in an aggressive ET program. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of literature supporting the theory that high-intensity RT not only does not impede adaptations associated with ET, it can actually improve endurance performance (2-11). Furthermore, it has been postulated that ET may not significantly blunt adaptations associated with RT, and can accelerate a reduction in fat mass as well as improve sleep, and cardiac efficiency (12-15).

sprinter

The Interference Theory

As previously mentioned, the interference theory originated from some pioneering research by Dr. Robert Hickson in 1980. Dr. Hickson investigated the training affects of a high frequency, high volume CT program, which utilized running as the ET modality and compared it to strength or endurance training alone over a ten-week period (1). Dr. Hickson found that strength increased in the CT group until approximately weeks 6-7, which was followed by a “leveling-off period” and a sharp decrease in strength the final two weeks (1). Additionally, Dr. Hickson noted no statistically significant differences in aerobic capacity between the ET only group and the CT group. Nevertheless, there were a couple of interesting outcomes associated with body composition. The CT group decreased their body fat significantly (p <0.05), and to a greater extent than either the ST only or ET only groups (1). Furthermore, the CT group increased their thigh girth 54.7 to 56.4 cm (p <0.05), which was similar to the strength only group 53.3 to 55.5 cm (p <0.01) (1). This is an indication of type I muscle fiber hypertrophy, which is commonly seen in certain endurance athletes such as cyclists or cross-country skiers.

Dr. Hickson’s results provided the foundational research concerning the inference phenomenon, while setting the platform from which many other investigations were launched. Rather than discuss every significant study conducted in the past 35 years, this article will provide you with the rationale for competing adaptations, discuss the benefits associated with RT and ET alone, as well as provide a set of practical recommendations to maximize RT and ET adaptations when training concurrently.

Inference Effects and Competing Adaptations

Two points are crystal clear from the current literature: 1) inference effects are multifactorial, and 2) there is a dose-response relationship between ET volume (i.e. frequency & duration) and its potential negative effects on RT outcomes. Interference is thought to be a combination of chronic overreaching, which can lead to overtraining, and long-term competing adaptations at the cellular level (16). In addition, the dose-response relationship that exists with increased ET volume does not appear to exist to the same extent with RT volume when examining endurance outcomes (i.e. VO2max, aerobic enzymatic activity, etc) (2-11). In fact, RT has been shown in numerous studies to improve endurance performance directly (i.e. time trial) (8, 17), as well as endurance parameters (VO2max and running/cycling economy) (2-11, 17). Furthermore, high-intensity RT (loads >85% 1RM) paired with explosive, high velocity RT has been suggested to be a superior method of RT in recreationally trained, highly trained, and elite endurance athletes (3-6, 8-9, 12, 18).

Chronic overreaching, and ultimately overtraining, is theorized to be a product of high volume, high intensity, and/or high frequency training bouts over an extended period of time (16). This theory is generally termed the “chronic hypothesis,” and is limited in its literary support. These effects are suggested to be exacerbated when the training bouts involve large muscle groups and excess exercise-induced muscle damage, as seen in repetitive eccentric contractions (i.e. running) (12, 16). ET has a natural high volume component, therefore, when combined with high volumes of RT it can be suggested that an overreaching stimulus could be created over time (12, 16). Therefore, when structuring a CT program it can be theorized that strategically programming ET around RT would be most effective for maximizing adaptations concurrently.

Aside from chronic overreaching, some researchers have put forth an “acute hypothesis,” which contends that residual fatigue from the endurance component of CT compromises the ability to develop muscular tension during the RT component (16). According to this theory, the tension generated by the working musculature during RT would not be sufficient enough to maximize strength development (16). In addition, proponents of this theory have suggested that performing RT directly preceding ET can alter endurance performance due to residual fatigue (16). Therefore, the acute hypothesis focuses on the scheduling of training sessions as the main interference effect associated with CT, as opposed to simply training concurrently (16).

RT Adaptations

RT adaptations can be broadly described as increases in muscular hypertrophy, strength, and power.

Muscular Hypertrophy: Exercise-induced muscular hypertrophy is centered on the mechanistic or mammalian target of rapamycin (mTor) signaling molecule, which demonstrates increased activity post-RT (20-21). mTor exists in two complexes, but for the purposes of this article we will only focus on mTor1. Increased mTor1 activity results in an increase in protein synthesis through a cascade of intracellular transduction pathways triggered by a mechanical tension/overload stimulus (19). Furthermore, amino acids (specifically leucine) have been shown to increase protein synthesis predominantly by increasing the primary leucine transporter (LAT1), which acts to up-regulate mTor1 (22). Therefore, this would theoretically result in an increase in the cross sectional area (CSA) of the muscle fiber, which directly relates to muscular strength.

Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is a combined effect of neural activation, muscle fiber size, and connective tissue stiffness (2-11). Neural alterations elicited by RT include an increased neural drive, selective activation of motor units (MUs), increased motor unit synchronization, increased rate of force development (RFD), increased inhibition of golgi tendon organs (GTOs) (termed autogenic inhibition), and a reduced antagonist inhibition (2-11, 23). Neural alterations elicited by RT do not appear to be significantly altered by ET, although repeatedly engaging in high-intensity ET could play a role in the milieu associated with neuromuscular fatigue, and/or factor into chronic overreaching (16). Additionally, changes in motor unit recruitment could reduce patters associated with maximal voluntary contractions, which could partially explain reductions in power parameters discussed by Wilson et al (2012) (12, 16). However, these effects should only be considered significant if concurrently training a power sport athlete. Furthermore, there is no research indicating that CT has detrimental effects on connective tissue stiffness, but one could surmise that without chronic overreaching, or an energy deficit, connective tissue stiffness should not be negatively altered by CT.

Muscular Power: Muscular power (force x distance/time) is simply rate of performing work, which can be described as the product of force and velocity. Improvements in muscular power rely primarily on neural alterations, specifically increases in RFD and motor unit synchronization, as well as a reduced antagonist inhibition. A meta-analysis by Wilson et al (2012) suggested that decrements in muscular power may be more likely associated with CT than decrements in either strength or hypertrophy. However, there is a clear dose-response relationship between the volume of ET, and decrements in muscular power (12). Therefore, it can be theorized that individuals wishing to maximize muscular power should limit the volume of ET performed when concurrently training. Furthermore, it can be suggested that performing cycling or rowing for endurance exercise can preserve RT associated adaptations when compared to running (2, 10, 12, 16).

ET Adaptations

ET adaptations can be broadly described as improvements in cardiovascular, muscular, and metabolic function.

Cardiovascular: ET elicits a multitude of cardiovascular adaptations that assist in improving blood flow and delivery. These adaptations include an increase in stroke volume (SV), an increase in heart size (termed cardiac hypertrophy), an increase in cardiac output (due to an increased SV), and a decrease in sub-maximal heart rates for a given intensity. RT has been shown to have a positive impact on exercise capacity (i.e. VO2max) when concurrently training, while initiating a physiological form of cardiac hypertrophy- read more here. These cardiovascular adaptations can have positive impacts on RT training (i.e. work capacity) and recovery, as well as improve cardiac efficiency.

Muscular/Metabolic: ET initiates a variety of adaptations in active skeletal muscle, which include increased mitochondrial volume and density, increased capillary density, and improved fat and glucose oxidation. In addition, there are muscle fiber type transitions that occur as type IIx fibers become more oxidative and resemble type IIa fibers. This muscle fiber transition could theoretically reduce the power output and force per unit of area of the muscle fiber, since myosin heavy chain isoform content of type IIx – IIa – I muscle fibers differ considerably, and have been correlated with various strength indices (16). However, current literature investigating CT has reported little difference in fiber type change between the CT groups and the RT only groups (16). RT training that results in an increase in muscular hypertrophy can blunt the increased capillary density, or decrease capillary density through the increase in CSA. However, unless you are a competitive endurance athlete this should not be a concern. This result can be negated by focusing on high-intensity, low volume RT with loads >85% 1RM (2-11).

The metabolic and hormonal signals initiated during ET turn on certain signaling proteins in skeletal muscle that lead to the aforementioned adaptations. ET involves repeated muscle contractions, which repeatedly releases calcium following each muscular contraction. This calcium activates the calcium-calmodulin kinase (CaMK) family of proteins, which is CaMKII in skeletal muscle (24). Active CaMK can increase the capacity for glucose uptake through the upregulation of the glucose transporter GLUT4, as well as increase mitochondrial volume by transcriptional upregulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-y coactivator 1a (PGC-1a), which serves as the mitochondrial biogensis regulator (25). With high-intensity endurance exercise there is a decrease of ATP and glycogen, which consequently increases ADP and AMP concentrations. This activates AMPK- activated protein kinase (AMPK), which facilitates an increase in fat oxidation during exercise, while also playing a role in the long-term regulation of mitochondrial volume (19).

In addition, the decrease in glycogen activates the 38 kDa mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38), which can increase the activity of PGC-1a (26-27). Through the rise of lactate and NAD+, there is the activation of the NAD+ dependent deacetylase family of sirtuins (SIRT) (26-27). Members of the SIRT family control the metabolic influx through the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, insulin sensitivity, and PGC-1a activity (26-27). There is speculation that one or more of these metabolic signaling pathways inhibit mTorc activation and limit hypertrophy when concurrently training, however there is more research needed (19).

There are certain mechanisms by which lactate removal, and ultimately the lactate concentration at a given exercise intensity, could be improved in endurance athletes through a RT program, however it is by no means fully conclusive. Hoff et al (1999) demonstrated improved short-term performance and improved work efficiency in cross-country skiers after a concurrent RT/ET program. Hoff and her colleagues observed a training-induced increase in RFD, which would allow for a shorter propulsion phase for a given overall power (9). This shorter propulsion phase would facilitate an extended muscle relaxation phase, which would reduce the time of contraction-induced muscle occlusion, and hence increase the time of muscle perfusion given the prolonged relaxation phase. This increase time for muscle perfusion would increase the mean capillary transit time (MCTT), which could ultimately allow for an increased MCTT every stride/revolution of an endurance event (9).

Hoff and her colleagues have suggested that due to the relatively large size of free fatty acids (FFA), the increased MCTT could enable an increased diffusion of FFAs into the muscle cells (9). This increased diffusion of FFAs could be described as glycogen sparing, which has been suggested to delay muscle fatigue through a reduced production of lactate (2). Furthermore, an increased MCTT could lead to an enhanced removal of metabolites produced by the contracting skeletal muscle, which could potentially delay fatigue and improve efficiency of the contracting muscle.

cyclist

Practical Recommendations

  1. Use ET wisely, and strategically program it into your RT blocks. Intersperse HIIT and low-to-moderate intensity ET to keep ET volume at a minimum, while reaping the benefits of ET.
  2. Use low-to-moderate intensity ET (40-60% HRR) as a therapeutic tool to enhance recovery and improve mood state.
  3. Perform ET on a cycle or rower when available. This will reduce the exercise-induced muscle damage associated with running, which has a significant eccentric component. Cycling will also reduce the caloric expenditure since you are activating less musculature than with running, if you are struggling to maintain energy balance.
  4. Alternate between RT and ET “volume focused” weeks with ET frequency no greater than 3 days per week and duration no longer than 30 minutes.
  5. Any high-intensity ET should be performed early in the day, if engaging in RT and ET on the same day. After the morning ET, there should be a recovery period of at least 3 hours to allow AMPK and SIRT1 activity to return to baseline.
  6. RT should be performed in a fed-state, while being supported by a leucine-rich protein source immediately following RT. If performing RT and ET on the same day, it is suggested that a protein-rich source be consumed immediately before bedtime as well.
  7. If performing ET and RT on the same day, you must fully refuel between the morning high-intensity ET session and the afternoon RT session. This will ensure that muscle glycogen levels are restored, while not activating AMPK or SIRT1 activity.
  8. Low intensity, non-depleting ET can be performed before RT, which can provide an improvement in the ET response as well as improve the strength response during RT. However, the key is that the ET must be low intensity and non-depleting.
  9. Program your ET volume around your RT volume. In other words, if you are having a high volume RT week, you should lower your ET volume to compensate for that excess muscle damage and metabolic stress.
  10. Focus on maintaining energy balance! When concurrently training, you need to strive to replace the calories that you are burning. If you train in a caloric deficit, this will undoubtedly compromise your gains in muscular strength and hypertrophy.

Wrapping Up

CT can improve endurance performance through improving work efficiency and increasing anaerobic capacity. There is no literature indicating that CT is detrimental to any performance outcome associated with ET. In contrast, the literature indicates that there is a sharp dose-response relationship with ET frequency and duration (i.e. volume) on RT associated outcomes such as muscular strength, power, and hypertrophy. Therefore, strategically implementing ET based on the current scientific literature will assist in developing an optimal program for maximizing benefits associated with RT and ET, respectively. In addition, there are benefits from low, moderate, and high intensity ET that are maximized by performing ET at a variety of intensity levels. Therefore, interspersing low-to-moderate intensity ET with high intensity ET is crucial, as well as utilizing the current literature to program these strategically.

About the Author

Marc

Marc Lewis M.S.(c), CSCS, ACSM-CPT is a graduate teaching/research assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina and the Director of Sports Performance for Winston Salem Personal Training.

Twitter: @mtlewis14

Personal Training: www.winstonsalempersonaltraining.com

Blog: www.marc-lewis.com

References

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Cardio & Appetite: Does Cardio Make You Fat?

Cardio & Appetite: Does Cardio Make You Fat?
By Fredrik Tonstad Vårvik

Does endurance-training (cardio) increase or decrease your appetite? What about resistance training?

Some might say that exercise increases appetite, while others say the opposite. The plain truth is that since exercise burns calories, you should think appetite increases to make up for those burned calories. For those who want to lose weight, that might come as a shock. What sounds logical is not always true. The media have done a great job of convincing the public that exercise increases your appetite and that you end up eating more and getting fat.

I have read and looked into the latest reviews and meta-analysis, which should sum up nicely what we know to date. The research that has been done is mostly short-term. The authors of the studies admit some limitations of the studies – mainly sub-optimal study design and small sample sizes.

hungry

Short term

A meta-analysis by Schubert et al, 2013, looked at acute energy intake up to a maximum of 24 hours post-exercise (1). Twenty-nine studies, consisting of 51 trials were included. Exercise duration ranged from 30 – 120 min at intensities of 36-81% VO2max. Test meals were offered 0-2 hours post-exercise. If subsequent meals were presented, they were 4-5 hours apart, from 1-4 meals. The overall results suggest that exercise is effective in producing a short-term energy deficit. Meaning that the subjects did not compensate for the energy they expended during exercise, in the 2-14 hours after exercise. Forty-five studies reported relative energy intake after exercise. They showed that participants compensated for the energy used in exercise by around 14%. All trials reported absolute energy intake. Despite large energy expenditures, the absolute energy intake was only slight higher in the exercise group compared to the no-exercise group, with a mean increase of about 50kcal.

These results are in line with a review of Deighton et al 2014 (2). Namely, that an acute bout of exercise does not stimulate any compensatory increases in appetite and energy intake on the day of exercise.

Short and long term

A review by Donnelly et al 2014, included 103 studies in their review (3). The study design included cross-sectional- , acute/short-term- , non-randomized- and randomized-studies. Exercise duration ranged from a single 30-min exercise bout to daily exercise over 14 days. Energy intake was measured from once post-exercise up to 72 weeks. Overall, the energy intake was reduced in participants doing exercise compared with participants not doing exercise. As noted by the authors: “our results from both acute and short-term trials suggest that any observed increase in post-exercise energy intake only partially compensates for the energy expended during exercise. Thus, in the short-term, exercise results in a negative energy balance.”

As for long term, only 2 out of the 36 non-randomized and randomized trials, in duration from 3 to 72 weeks, reported an increase in absolute energy intake in response to exercise. Moreover, 30 of the studies reported no change in calorie intake, while five of the randomized studied reported significant decreases of 200-500 calories per day in response to training.

Blundell et al, 2015, agrees that exercise has little effect on energy intake within a single day (4). However, in the long-term, there seems to be a raise in compensatory energy intake, ranging from 0 % to 60 % compensation in energy intake for the exercise expenditure.

Low, medium & high fitness level

The meta-analysis by Schubert et al, 2013, indicated that individuals of low and moderate fitness reduce energy intake more than those with high fitness level (1). They reference previous work that agrees that individual who are more physically active more accurately regulate their energy expenditure. The researchers write that active individuals compensate for about 23% of energy expended while inactive individuals actually had a negative compensation of -35,5%. In Donnelly et al’s review, they found no difference in fitness level and energy intake (3).

Resistance training:

Five interventions in Schubert et al’s meta-analysis utilized resistance training (1). The sessions were between 35-90min with 10-12 repetition maximum and 2-4 sets. Acute energy intake up to 14 hours were reduced compared to energy expenditure; however, it was not as reduced as the groups with endurance training. Worth noting is that energy expenditure of resistance training is difficult to quantify precisely. So don’t stop doing resistance training, there are a lot of other positive advantages, like improved body composition. In addition, the review by Donnelly et al found no difference between energy intake post-exercise in endurance exercise and resistance training (3).

Intensity & duration

An effect of exercise intensity was not found in Schubert et at’s meta-analysis (1). However, the researchers mention in the text that others have found that intensities above 70% VO2max appears to reduce appetite but with minor changes in absolute energy intake. In contrast to this finding, Donnelly’s review found no significant difference in exercise intensity and duration on energy intake (3). Deighton et al also concludes that high-intensity does not reduce appetite more than low-intensity (2). However, if you look more into the studies analyzed in Donnelly’s review you will see that high-intensity might have some advantages concerning reducing energy intake.

Compensators & responders

The mean (average) in Schubert et al’s meta-analysis showed a short-term reduction in energy intake (1). However, some actually increased their absolute energy intake post-exercise. Some of the trials in Donnelly et al’s review also increased their energy intake, meaning that some compensate more after the energy deficit the exercise gives (3). Compensators have showed an increase in hedonic response to food, which means they are more sensitive and “weak” to food that give more pleasure eating.

How does exercise influence appetite?

As stated in the start of this article – since you burn calories through exercise you should expect to increase appetite and make up for it with eating more. As the research says, in most people it does not.

The reason might be because exercise suppresses ghrelin levels (a hormone that stimulates energy intake), while increasing hormones that increase satiety, such as peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) (1). This is in line with data from Blundell et al, 2015, which means that increased physical activity improves satiety signaling and appetite control. And that this system gets deregulated in sedentary people, thereby permitting overconsumption, as shown in the illustration (4).

Untitled

Exercise does also make adjustments other than with gastrointestinal hormone response and gastric emptying: blood flow, muscle cellular metabolism, adipose tissue biochemistry as well as brain activity gets adjusted by exercise.

Why do individuals lose less weight than would be expected during long-term exercise interventions?

Several theories exist regarding why individuals do not lose as much weight as expected during an exercise program (1).

  • Some might change their dietary intake in response to exercise, especially the compensators
  • Some prefer sweet and high-fat food post-exercise
  • Energy intake may not increase per se, but rather a compensation of physical activity outside the exercise program decreases
  • The research mentioned in this article, stated that there is a highly individual difference between how much you compensate with energy intake, if you compensate much you will see little difference in weight

The bottom line is, on average, exercise will not make you eat more. Moreover, exercise is a tool you can use for losing weight. Energy expenditure of exercise is the strongest predictor of fat loss during an exercise program, according to Deighton et al (2).

Author bio

Fredrik Tonstad Vårvik is a personal trainer & nutritionist. He writes articles and work with online coaching at fredfitology. Follow him and his colleagues at facebook & twitter. Check out FredFitology for more info.

Fredrik

References 

  1. Schubert MM, Desbrow B, Sabapathy S, Leveritt M. Acute exercise and subsequent energy intake. A meta-analysis. Appetite. 2013 Apr;63:92–104. LINK
  2. Deighton K, Stensel DJ. Creating an acute energy deficit without stimulating compensatory increases in appetite: is there an optimal exercise protocol? Proc Nutr Soc. 2014;73(02):352–8. LINK
  3. Donnelly JE, Herrmann SD, Lambourne K, Szabo AN, Honas JJ, Washburn RA. Does increased exercise or physical activity alter ad-libitum daily energy intake or macronutrient composition in healthy adults? A systematic review. PloS One. 2014;9(1):e83498. LINK
  4. Blundell JE, Gibbons C, Caudwell P, Finlayson G, Hopkins M. Appetite control and energy balance: impact of exercise. Obes Rev Off J Int Assoc Study Obes. 2015 Feb;16 Suppl 1:67–76. LINK